Monday, November 30, 2015

Running Streak : Day 5

A quick 3.4 miles tonight. Served as a good recovery from yesterday's long run.

Additionally, the winter chill is becoming very apparent in the air, and I was not overdressed with tights, shorts, long sleeved shirt, jacket, hat, and gloves.

The rest of the week is very busy at work. I will undoubtedly have a couple of one mile days, but I remain steadfast and committed to the streak!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Running Streak: Day 4 (The Ol' Stomping Grounds)

Long run tonight. Ran 13.4 miles in about two hours.

Planned a course that took me from my current neighborhood around my city, and looped into the village that I used to live in on the way back. I like running over there on long runs because as I don't run much there anymore, I am always impressed at how my legs seem to remember the terrain. My legs adjust to the hills and pot holes as if I had run them just yesterday, and I feel a great sense of ease and familiarity there.

At about mile seven, as I climbed up an old familiar hill, I was disappointed to see that the thick undergrowth and forested area that had once surrounded the area had been cut clear, and I could see the half-mile or so to the apartment building I used to live in. Not sure if that land is being developed for something, but one of the nice things about those apartments was that they were surrounded by woods and thick brush, so you felt isolated even in the midst of a moderate urban area.

Travelling further on the road that I so often stepped out on when I started running, I was impressed to see that the area had been improved and re-paved. Really nice for pedestrians, now, with a solid sidewalk running all the way along the road (this area immediately connects to a highway, so it was fairly dangerous running in the shoulder there when I started running.)

All in all, a good run. A cold night, but I did OK even if I felt like I may have been a bit under-dressed towards the end. The temp had dropped so much after sunset that I was starting to get concerned about being out in sweat-drenched clothes, so I packed it in. Overall ended up with 27.8 miles for the week. Not a half bad start to this running streak.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Running Streak: Day 3

Just a quick mile and a quarter tonight. Wet out, and I'm feeling sort of cold. Figured I would get the mile in since I hope to do a longer run tomorrow.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Running Streak: Day 2

4.3 today. Had planned to do the old Turkey Trot Course, but due to some errands, general laziness, and a family commitment I ended up just going out for a run on one of my normal 4.3 routes.

The weather was absolutely beautiful, and I managed to cover the distance in 38 minutes even.

Hoping to get a long run in Saturday or Sunday. Haven't managed to get a run in longer than seven or so miles in November. Partly because I was prioritizing the 5ks, and partly because I was recovering from the marathon in October. I'll shoe-horn a longer run in this weekend though, as I like to have at least a 10k and a 13.1 in the books for every month.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Running Streak: Day 1

Some easy miles tonight.. about 4 and a half. Thought it would be colder, so I wore a shirt that was a bit too heavy, which made things fairly unpleasant. Live and learn, I suppose.

Thanksgiving dinner was a simple one this year. I did some baked tofu, mashed carrots and turnip, stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, and brussel sprouts roasted with toasted walnuts. We did turkey with our friends two weeks ago, so we didn't see the point in going all out again. I broiled a steak for my wife.

Soon it should be cold enough that all that winter gear will pay off at keeping me comfortable. In the meantime I will try to dress lighter and enjoy the nice fall weather!

Planning to go run another 4 tomorrow with some friends, on what used to be our old Turkey Trot course. Will let you know how that goes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hard Reset


"Le premier pas, mon fils, que l'on fait dans le monde,Est celui dont d├ępend le reste de nos jours." 
--Voltaire, L'Indiscret

*****

As we hit the holiday season (and I consider Thanksgiving to be the start to the actual holiday season, not Halloween) I am thinking more and more about my eating habits. I'm up several pounds since the marathon I ran back in October, and I have been stress eating like crazy as we approach the arrival of this little girl. Also, things at work have become increasingly stressful, and I've had a harder time getting in more than 15 miles a week this month. Less mileage almost always means more unresolved stress for me, so I'm going to need to start putting in a more consistent effort as we approach December.

So last week after a particularly stressful set of days, I gave myself a mental health day. Those aren't always work days, I should point out, a good many of our mental health days are weekend days. But still, a day set aside with an intentionally blank agenda can be freeing. On this particular one I even let go of logging my food. For the first time in 1,220 days I didn't log a single thing into my MFP diary. I didn't even really think about it until the next morning when my counter reset to 0 days.

For those of you who don't know, I lost a lot of weight a few years ago as I began running. Really, I started the weight loss with MyFitnessPal and logging my food. My wife and I began logging the activity we were doing, and I started a run/walk program on my own. I didn't expect to become a marathon runner. I just wanted to get back in shape and hopefully find the confidence to free myself from a really soul-crushing boss.

Logging everyday really helped me think about what I'm eating, how I portion things, and also about how important my activity level can be in maintaining the shape I'm in. It was a really great 3.34 years of consistent logging, but I'll admit, towards the end of that streak I've been less diligent about it. I was still logging, but I wasn't really being truthful with myself and with portion sizes.

I think sometimes it is good to have a hard reset. This worked for me once, but that was three years ago, and I am a decidedly different person now. I'm intending to continue logging, to start my streak over again. I just want to see if I can get back the drive and dedication I had to it for that first year when I made a really crazy amount of progress. I've done similar things to keep my running fresh -- I still run, but I try different plans, and I don't always glue myself to them permanently.

So we'll see what happens. I would like to lose about 15 pounds and get back down to the weight I was when I ran my first marathon. I'm not sure if that's really realistic, but I would accept losing 10 pounds. I know I can get there in time for Big Sur in April. I also need to get back to eating my mostly vegetarian diet. I've been slipping on that more and more, and I've had meat more times in the last month than I probably have had all year. I notice it in my running -- I feel like I sweat differently, I'm more prone to heart burn. I need to get back to more veggies.

For thanksgiving I usually do a field roast celebration roast -- they taste really good, but they usually give me really bad heartburn. So I'm staying away from that this season. I'm planning to do a savory baked tofu with beans and some roast veggies. I'm still planning to do a bread stuffing and maybe mashed sweet potatoes. I'm also planning on making cranberry-orange bread (a favorite of my father-in-law's) and sharing that out with my coworkers this week. I am planning on giving up alcohol (save for maybe a drink at Christmas, a flute of champagne at New Year's) until after Big Sur.

Do I have any regular readers yet? If I do, I hope you enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with your friends and loved ones. For those of you not in the US, I hope that you and your families are doing well. The world becomes increasingly turbulent around us, and sometimes all we can do is put one foot in front of the other, bear down into the hill, and think about the people that really matter to us.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

End of the 2015 Racing Season / Holiday Running Streak

Due to a variety of upcoming events, my race season ended yesterday. I can't commit to anymore races this year, because I may not be able to attend them! That's an odd feeling, usually I go into December. Anyway, here is a list of the races I've run in 2015:

2/20/2015 -- Newport Night Run 5k! (Newport, RI)
21:58, 7:04/mile

3/29/2015 -- Eastern States 20 mile (Portsmouth, NH)
2:49:15, 8:28/mile

6/13/2015 -- Gaspee Days 5k (Cranston, RI)
22:26, 7:15/mile

7/18/2015 -- Craft Brew Races 5k (Newport, RI)
21:37, 6:57/mile

7/24/2015 -- Blessing of the Fleet 10 mile Race (Narragansett, RI)
1:17:27, 7:45/mile

9/19/15 -- Jamestown Half Marathon (Jamestown, RI)
1:40:16, 7:39/mile, 31st Overall

10/18/15 -- Ashworth Awards Baystate Marathon (Lowell, MA)
3:48:48

10/25/15 -- Pell Bridge Walk/Run (Jamestown/Newport, RI)
(Walked with family members, can't remember time, don't care.)

10/25/15 -- Great Pumpkin 5k / Dog Run (Warren, RI)
24:07, 7:47/mile, 1st in Age Group

11/11/15 -- PVMS 5k (Cranston, RI)
22:55, 7:04/mile

11/21/15 -- East Providence Turkey Trot (East Providence, RI)
21:59, 7:04/mile

Not a bad showing, for my third year of running. No PR at the 5k distance, which I was hoping for, but I didn't do as much as I could have to make that happen. I focused more on the distance and frequency of training through the summer and less on speedwork, which did pay off at the marathon distance and got me close to my 2013 PR at Baystate.

I will be adding things to my race calendar for 2016 in the upcoming weeks. I already have Big Sur on my mind, and I've been throwing in more hills at the end of my runs in anticipation for it. I'm also thinking of taking up snow-shoeing this winter, as a way to get some distance in without having to do endless loops in my neighborhood. I don't plan on doing any snow shoe races this year, but we'll see where that leads me in years to come.

Overall, optimistic about my future with running. I'll never be competitive with anyone but myself, but at least I still have my goals in sight, and they feel pretty attainable.

I will once again be participating in the Runner's World Holiday Running Streak this year. This will be my third year doing the streak, with the goal of running at least one mile a day everyday between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. I will have some added challenges this year, but I still want to try my best. This week look for a couple of posts about my holiday streaks from previous years. I will also attempt to post each day about the workout I've done for that day.

This combined with my regularly scheduled posts means there will be quite a bit of content here on the NDEB, and I hope it is stuff you will enjoy reading.

Participating in the holiday streak? Let me know in the comments and we can cheer each other on!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

On Meat and Vegans

So, I should probably disclose to readers here that I am a vegetarian. I eat some animal products, I do try and remain conscious of what I am buying. I buy local eggs from local farms. I eat greek yogurt, but mostly I avoid dairy because I've never much cared for it. I use a soy-based margarine type of spread on most of my food and in my baking (except when butter is a necessary indulgence.)

Mostly, I try to eat more vegetarian and with those priorities because I think it is healthier. I've been keeping mostly vegetarian for years, and have noticed a dramatic reduction in the number of times that I've gotten heart burn over the course of a year.

I mean, also there was the years that my wife and I were fairly poor out of college. We ate a lot of chicken, and I just am totally burned out on that protein. I became interested in a vegan diet mostly because I was interested in trying new types of food. There may have been a brief moment where I wanted to do it for ethical reasons, but I certainly am not a proselytizer for vegan ethics. Some of the most interesting recipes to me have been vegan -- it can be a challenge but also a lot of fun. It also proved a way for me to learn about the foods of other cultures.

Meat is a thing I've been thinking a lot about lately. This isn't really a treatise on diets, ethics, and more. This is, actually, about parenting. A big facet of being a new parent in America is interfacing with the corporate medical establishment. I'm not bemoaning the loss of the "old time family doctor" making house calls with a black leather bag. I think that there are real benefits to the way we do things. I'm a pro-Science person. I have friends who work in medicine, and I trust their thoughts and knowledge on medical matters. But, the population of medical professionals is a huge one, and there is a lot of variance in personality and demeanor. I'm not sure we have this figured out at all, especially when it comes to the medical professionals who work with pregnant women.

The big issue is this: there are so many patients, and it seems, so many overworked medical professionals.

Being teachers, my wife and I have the benefit of the forced work stoppage that happens during the summer. I consider it beneficial, if not financially, then because we are able to get early appointments with doctors all summer. When you are the first person a doctor sees, or even early on in the day, there is a big difference from being the last person. Now that we've been back to work for a couple of months, the appointments have been later in the afternoon.

Since the fall season has begun, we've been forced to wait longer, testing our patience at the end of an already long work day. I want to say that we haven't been rude to any of the doctors. I don't think we have. But, I can tell you that we have had our share of doctors who clearly have not read my wife's chart. They are caught off guard when she tells them she has gestational diabetes, as if this is news. As if we didn't have several tests in their own labs.

That is unacceptable to me; more-so as a regular occurrence. If you are a father, and you've been through this situation then I imagine you felt a similar sense of  defensiveness over the well-being of your parenting-partner. You want to feel like they are receiving the absolute best medical care you can afford. But you are deceiving yourself when you tell yourself that while realizing that the doctor has no idea what you are talking about on an issue that is in your partner's chart. The word 'unacceptable' hardly placates the anger I feel about this. But it is unacceptable.

It is also unacceptable to let your first year med student (who we don't know) take my wife's measurements without her consent. It is unacceptable to allow a med student to do anything without first asking the patient. The idea that consent is somehow implied there is insanity to me.

I'm having a hard time abstaining from profanity in this post. Just thought you should know, dear reader.

Where I have to draw the line is when we're made to wait for a long time, and my wife is thrown into a panic because the doctor's bedside manner is so poor that it resembles more complete apathy. Pregnant people don't deserve apathy. I know of no people who are comforted by the lack of compassion or care provided by an overworked doctor. Coupled with an ignorance and persistent deafness when discussing work leave policies, I am placed into a rage where I really have to fight against losing my composure.

Again, the profanity.

I'm very protective of my wife. This is our first child. This is a big deal to me. I understand that to the doctor, we are really just 3:45pm-4:15pm.

But part of that job is also being a compassionate human being.

We aren't pieces of meat. On this stance I will not waiver.

So, what is the solution to that?  Unionizing doctors? I would think that would be the only way to ensure that they say fewer patients a day. I certainly think that they need fewer patients a day. I'm not under the impression that being a doctor is easy. I'm just saying, I don't appreciate the habitually lack of care that goes into these appointments. It is dehumanizing, and it is off-putting to feel like this person holds the health of your loved ones in their hands, and that they are somewhat indifferent about that fact.

Aside from the idea that doctors may be overworked, there is the fact that they wield an enormous amount of power, and they can leave patients feeling defenseless to argue. I'm sorry, but sometimes, Doctors are not right. That is a difficult thing for many of us who grew up with an idea of them as somehow infallible. I know a doctor isn't right when they don't ask my wife for consent to allow a medical student to do anything. I know a doctor isn't right when they assume they know what kind of stresses and rigors we face at work, without first asking, reading the file, or listening to what is said. That is just bad staff work, and we should expect more from medical professionals.

So my wife and I have been seeing other doctors since our uneasiness with our OB. We believe we have found one that we like, at least in so far as this doctor listens and seems supportive of doing what my wife needs. You wouldn't think that would be such a hard thing to get in a medical professional.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dreams and Visions

"Dreams, as we all know, are very queer things: some parts are presented with appalling vividness, with details worked up with the elaborate finish of jewelry, while others one gallops through, as it were, without noticing them at all, as, for instance, through space and time. Dreams seem to be spurred on not by reason but by desire, not by the head but by the heart, and yet what complicated tricks my reason has played sometimes in dreams, what utterly incomprehensible things happen to it!"

--Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (1877)

*****

I haven't been running much this week, due mostly to work and feeling exhausted. My phone has a pedometer, and even though I'm doubtful of its accuracy, I believe I still at least four miles on foot everyday. Walking, up and down stairs, occasionally running to get here or there.

So when I talk about my weekly mileage, mostly that's on top of the 30 or so miles I walk a week.

I have been taking that time off because I'm "listening to my body." It feels like a cop-out to say that, but I am just so tired after work. The plan right now is to get back on the road in the next couple of weeks to get in some kind of shape for the Turkey Trot I'll be running in a couple of weeks. Our Turkey Trot here used to be a 4.3 miler, but this year has changed over to a 5k. I'm going to miss the eccentric distance, it was always a lot of fun, but I will appreciate the ability to use the 5k distance to judge my fitness and marathon recovery time.

My wife and I got a new bed about a month ago, and I have been sleeping more soundly than I have in years. Those of you with children, no doubt, are saying "Get that rest now, because you won't be able to later.." This is a message reiterated to me from many friends and colleagues with young ones at home.

Since I've been sleeping, I've returned to dreaming. Often throughout my life when I've had good periods of rest I tend to have very vivid dreams, odd at times as most dreams are, but memorable.

I wanted to write a post to recall a dream I had on the eve of my 30th birthday. I think it may be the first dream I have ever had about running -- at least running in a race.

In nightmares I often find myself running from something with the fear that I won't be able to get away. I suppose that has a lot to do with the layer of sleep one is in during nightmares. The amygdala tends to be very active during that type of sleep, so the fight or flight instinct takes over. It makes sense when you think about it as practice for things that can happen to you in the wild. But it still isn't a lot of fun. In any event, that wasn't what this dream was about. This one was a dream about the marathon I didn't run on November 1st.

I decided not to run the race because we had a family emergency going on, and also because it was the first running of that race. I wasn't sure how the course support would be, and I like to know that stuff being a middle of the pack runner.

Anyway, in this dream I was running along the course. The marathon in my dream was set in New England, but not exactly where the race is actually set. I remember feeling in my dream like it was an awful lot like Dedham, Massachusetts. That had a lot to do with the types of buildings and population density. Anyway, it wasn't where the race actually was, just vaguely similar.

When I hit mile 20, there was a gift shop selling race memorabilia. The memorabilia had to do with the New England States -- in my dream, at least, this race was cashing in on being set in New England and pandering to New England runners on participating. I don't know any races that do that. It is a strange concept, because you'd usually want something to do with the race you're participating in, and where it is set, not where you came from to run it. Odd.

So, of course I stopped to purchase some stuff, and then got back on the road. At mile 22, I stopped into my house (which for some reason was on the race course..) to show the things I bought to my wife. In the dream at this point she said, "So, what do you think? You'll be coming in at around 4:30/5 hours at this point?"

I forgot I was still in the middle of the race. And in the dream, I wasn't really alarmed by this, I just got back out on the road and ran to the end. That's odd, isn't it?

So, I don't know. I think dreams are really just our brain's way of filing through the events of the day, and it is possible I'd been thinking so much about marathons post-Baystate that it was the overall theme. But what about the gift shop thing? Is my subconscious also telling me that I'm in this for the wrong reasons? I always tell myself that I'm in this for the experience of running in different places, experiencing the joy of adding  my power to the pack, reveling in the running culture I never knew until a few years ago.

Maybe I'm getting too materialistic? Maybe my priorities are out of whack.

This dream is one that I'll be reflecting on during my holiday running streak this year.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Talisman

Ganesha the god-maker regarded the jungle about him. Though he walked through the realm of the phantom cats, he feared no evil. For the Lord of Chaos walked by his side, and the Trident of Destruction comforted him.
--Roger Zelazny, in Lord of Light

*****

I am a person who is naturally superstitious. In developing a mental fortitude that allowed me to run great distances, I've found not only the use of mantras to be very important but having a physical symbol of strength to carry with me. When I started this running journey I was wearing the Ankh, the Egyptian symbol associated with everlasting life and the element of water. Being a Rhode Islander the water has always had an important role in my life, and I took up running in part to extend my health and my life, so I feel the connection there is obvious. I've also always enjoyed the Ankh as a symbol. I've owned various pendants in that shape since I was a teenager, so I've got some history with it.

I wore the Ankh on and off for a couple of years (I continue to wear it today on occasion) and I also wear the Eye of Horus. Another ancient symbol that represents protection. My Horus pendant is an onyx disc with multiple Egyptian symbols surrounding the eye in Silver. I never wore it a lot while running, just because it was so heavy. But I did wear it quite a few other times through the past years because I like the iconography.

I moved on to the Scorpion for a couple of reasons. My astrological sign is Scorpio, and also I wanted to claim the protection of a symbol that many people, including myself, may find intimidating. It was a sort of a “batman” moment. Scorpions aren't terribly friendly. But I think of mine as being a spirit animal of sorts. I usually have some minor anxieties when dragging myself out on a long run (am I dressed right for the weather? What if a car hits me? What if I twist an ankle?) and I have to muster the strength to just get out the door. The scorpion pendant I wear represents that sort of grit that it takes to pull me through some of those thoughts.

For this next chapter in my life I've chosen a different sort of talisman. In discussing design plans for our baby's nursery, my wife and I settled on a color scheme of teals, blues, and lime greens with Elephants as a unifying theme. We've always liked elephants, and I've long collected statues (and have a great set of book ends) of elephants. I also can remember my grandmother reading the French children's stories of Babar to me when I was young.

Being a student of Eastern thought, and coupled with this new plan for the nursery I've decided to adopt the Hindu deity of Ganesha as my talisman for this next ten years. Ganesha is the Hindu deity who is often referred to as the “remover of obstacles.” He is the God of knowledge, wisdom, and new beginnings.

One of my favorite books on Hinduism is Sanjay Patel's The Little Book of Hindu Deities. In the book Patel refers to a story in which Shiva created Ganesha to protect his wife Parvati. When he returned, Ganesha didn't recognize him and so Shiva took his head off. 

Parvati gave him a hard time about that, so Shiva replaced his head with the head of an elephant. Obviously there are a lot of variations to these stories as Hinduism is a very old religion, but this one is one of my favorite versions. My understanding is that in Hinduism he is seen as a friend deity, one who you are meant to think of warmly. I like that for this chapter, because I'm hoping this child sees the world in a warm, friendly way.

So Ganesha will be a great symbol for me as I start this new chapter in my life: a way to tie in an acceptance of all the changes to come. A symbol of the desire to learn and overcome, and the unconditional love I already feel for this child.

My legs are tired this week. 8 miles into the week, and we have a fairly big storm coming that's expected to drop a couple of inches of rain. I may take a day off today to rest, and run some errands. This weekend I'm planning to run a 5k I run every year around my birthday. I'm not sure that I'll try to race it very hard, but I'm hoping to put in a decent enough effort and finish around 22 minutes. I'm thinking it was overly ambitious to shoot for the marathon this Sunday (on my birthday) but who knows. I may still change my mind and go run it.

My bigger concern now is running it and getting injured, being unable to run the running streak I do every year between American Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, November 1, 2015

30.

Today is my thirtieth birthday.

I'm not really sure what's on the schedule for today... plans got sidelined this weekend by an unexpected family emergency. Not to worry, the baby, my wife, and myself are all fine. Sometimes life throws us curve balls, and honestly I won't be too hurt by the addition of a couple of rest days.

I'm in an odd place, though. This is past the "quarter-life crisis". I'm not really sure what I feel. I expected to be freaked out at being thirty, but I'm finding that just like with other milestones I'm not really feeling changed by it. That is a good thing, I guess. Crises are not a thing to relish and sentimentalize.

So, the 5k and Marathon I had planned for this weekend went out the window. I dreamed of the marathon last night, too. I'll need to get out and get a good long run in soon.

Towards the end of November I participate in the Runner's World Running Streak. It doesn't really feel like a big deal to me, anymore, and last year I actually ended up building a strong base and peaking at 45 miles during the streak. We'll see if I have a similar performance this year, it certainly wouldn't hurt me going into a training season for Big Sur.

I will plan to do some more frequent posts as I start the streak, so anyone following can stay updated on the progress. The middle of December is also "go time" for this baby, so I am planning to try and build up some posts in case I am pulled away from my normal commitments for an unspecified amount of time.

Three decades. Ugh.

Cake tonight.